Sunday, September 25, 2005

Moving out

In light of my changed address I've decided to move blogs for a while too.

So while I'm in Vermont, I'm going to be posting to a new sister blog, The Vermizzle

(Yeah, I'm going to work this Snoop Dogg thing way, way past the point where it stops being au courant and just starts to sound lame and dated. But maybe he'll sue me anyway!)

Bye for now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Vermizzle?

Due to a completely unforseen chain of events, I find myself here in the land of my birth. It's going to be an extended stay. Seeing as this relocation will definitely limit my ability to provide witty commentary on life in Manchester, my focus will probably shift to providing witty commentary on life in the Green Mountain State. Okay. They're not that different. One's the second city of Britain with a population of two and a half million ... and growing rapidly. It's known for bands, football and textile mills. The other is a mountainous northeastern state with a population of little more than half a million people. It's known for trees, cows and shouty liberals. What could be easier?

It's also home to some fine bloggers and fascinating folks, I discovered today at an event at Johnson State College Vermont's blogosphere is just picking up momentum. The talk focused on bloggers as citizen journalists, but some of the most interesting discussions were about the potential for blogs to provide coverage of local issues and encourage public involvement and debate. This is an angle that generally gets lost in all of the media hype about blogs but it's not lost on the community-minded souls of Vermont, where everyone still votes on school and town budgets once a year at Town Meeting Day.

For a sampling of some of these experiments in community-led blogging, check out the excellent VT blogroll up on Cathy Resmer's 802 blog (affiliated with the Burlington Alt-weekly Seven Days, where she's a staff writer.) Links at the bottom to iPutney,iBurlington and a few others.

Friday, September 16, 2005


The Northern Quarter: formerly a down-and-dirty few blocks of Manc blight studded with sex shops, rough pubs and good curries. Now an acceptably edgy playground for creative types with silly haircuts.

About six months ago, the Northern Quarter's growth seemed unstoppable. In the last year or so, new bars have sprung up like psychedelic toadstools after rain ... first the big fat boring lounge Bluu, followed in short order by the more interesting Common, Bay Horse, Rodeo and Odd. On the food front, we got the Northern Quarter Restaurant and Bar, Dr. Livvy's and Soup Kitchen. Plus an anarchist bookstore/cafe, a health food store, not one but two annoyingly expensive fetish trainer shops, a florist, a roots record shop, a trendy hairdresser's and two new vintage clothing stores. I'm sure I'm leaving something out, but, um, sheesh, that's a lot.

But all is not well in Manchester's Greenwich Village. Two of the three-in-a-row clothes stores favoured by trust-fund hipsters on Oldham Street, Arc and Boxfresh, have shut down. However, they're both located in the Smithfield buildings, where Urban Splash's rent hikes have prompted quite a few departures over the last year or two. Perhaps they're only interested in supporting small businesses nearer their massive new chips development in "New Islington" (formerly known to us as Ancoats. Didn't have that aspirational ring to it, so they had to change the name of the neighbourhood. A small detail.)

It'll be interesting to see whether these empty storefronts fill up, and if they do, what kinds of businesses come in. Gentrification anyone?

In the meantime, I'd like to go on record saying that anyone who refers to the Northern Quarter as "The NQ", "The N/4", "The Quarter" or any variation thereof should be taken out behind Afflecks' and pelted with Arcade Fire and Goldfrapp CDs until they whimper.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The honeymoon's over

Have just returned from a week here, where I managed to get far, far away from computer screens and seriousness. Ravello is a heart-stoppingly beautiful place, slightly less touristed out than the rest of the Amalfi coast, which is made up of tiny colorful towns clinging limpet-like to rocky cliffs along the Bay of Naples. I spent a large portion of the trip clinging limpet-like to the Oh Jesus handles on the passenger side of our tiny rented smart car as completely insane Italian drivers bore down on us, refusing to give way, slow down or drive in anything approaching a reasonable manner. And all this on a single-lane cliffside road that was essentially one 30-mile-long hairpin turn. Oy vey.

Before leaving, I consulted the international message boards at Chowhound to ensure that we’d eat well in Italia, and the hounds did not disappoint. We had amazing meals at Lido Azurro on the docks in Amalfi and Acqua Pazza in the appealingly chilled out fishing town of Cetara. We also embarked on a hair-raising drive over the Lattari mountains in search of extra virgin olive oil. We found someone who spoke english in Agarola and followed his directions to the outskirts of Pimonte, where we managed to identify an olive oil producer and blundered our way through a charades-like transaction. And now a massive five liter unlabelled plastic jug of musty green oil squats on our kitchen counter, tasting dark and spicy and about as far from our tesco’s extra virgin as it could be. I see many great salad dressings ahead. For, like, the next three years.

I have been following the news from New Orleans with much sadness and anger. Two of my favorite American columnists, Molly Ivins and Maureen Dowd, have risen to the occasion, writing op-eds infused with righteous wrath and packed with frightening information. Michael Moore has also nailed it with his letter to Bush. There are encouraging signs that the American public is waking up at last. But it’s horribly sad that this had to happen to bring that about.